What does idolatry mean?

BibleAsk Team


About idolatry, the second Commandment states:

“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:3-6).

Generally, we think of idolatry as bowing down and worshiping idols or statues. And that’s true but there is a broader meaning to the word idolatry. In the King James Version of the Bible, there are three different words translated as “idolatry.” Each one ( teraphiym, kateidolos and eidololatria) includes the concept of serving or worshiping something other than God.

Paul defines idolatry saying, “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Colossians 3:5). So, idolatry is not just venerating a statue. Idolatry takes place when we begin to value anything more than we value God (Galatians 5:20).

When God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3), He wasn’t just talking about the pagan deities that seem so strange to us today. He was talking about  anything  that replaces His place as number one in our hearts. Jesus says, in Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

Idolatry is making “all these [material] things” the main object of our search in life, in the vain hope that God will be lenient with us, and, at the close of life’s journey, add to our short life of threescore and ten years the eternal kingdom. But Christ would have us make first things first, and then assures us that all things of lesser importance and value will be given to each according to his need.

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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